News / London

Western University team powering up the future of electric cars

They might not have built a better mousetrap, per say. But researchers at Western University are on the verge of something that could make electric cars more marketable.

The power behind their work? Batteries.

Xueliang (Andy) Sun, who works in Western’s engineering faculty, started working with others in 2011 to study ways of building a better electric car battery.

Simply put: “We have to find a solution to increase performance while maintaining safety, stability, environmental sustainability and cost,” says Sun, the Canada Research Chair in development of nanomaterials for clean energy.

Sun and his team now say a mechanical process — called carbon coating — may actually be doing more harm than good to the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries.

The researchers used techniques, including scanning electron microscope imaging, to figure out that the surface of the batteries appears to be melting during the carbon coating process, which includes temperatures ranging from 600 to 900 C.

The battery surface “basically becomes a liquid, creating island-shaped phases or pockets on the top of the battery materials, which breaks its conductivity,” said Sun.

That, in turn, causes decreased performance.

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